BY LEANN DILBECK & JACLYN ROSE
The State rest its case at approximately 2 p.m. on day three of the Van Winkle felony kidnapping/stalking trial but before it concluded its presentation of the case against the local dentist, Sheriff Mike Godfrey spent the morning on the witness stand testifying on the collection of evidence and processing of the crime scene.
Godfrey testified that he found what he believed to be the entry point on a window that had the screens off. (Other windows had screens on them.) He said the bottom trim was pried back with fresh marks on the aluminum. Drapes also appeared out of normal order and it was his best speculation that was Van Winkle’s point of entry.
Godfrey described in detail the condition of the living room that was consistent with a struggle noting the victim’s nametag from her uniform that was laying on the floor, cell phone found under the couch, plastic zip tie found on the seat cushion of the chair, an empty pill bottle, a roll of coins wrapped in duct tape. He also noted that no other wrapped coins or duct tape was found anywhere else in the victim’s home.
Godfrey said he obtained a statement from the victim, Miranda Olmstead. The following Sunday he obtained search warrants for Van Winkle’s truck and residence. Upon search of Van Winkle’s residence, a roll of coins were found along with duct tape, blood stained paper towels recovered from the master bedroom and notebook paper with Miranda’s name and address.
Among the items confiscated as evidence from the search of the truck was a cell phone from the center console that had been taken apart and the battery detached. Godfrey noted that a battery had to be connected in order to ping a phone. Zip ties were also discovered fastened together. A screwdriver was also found behind the front seat of the truck that was the same brand as the one that had been removed from Van Winkle’s pocket.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Bill James exemplified why he has earned a reputation among his colleagues as being one of the “best” defense attorneys in the state as he attempted to establish reasonable doubt by a line of questioning to show that Godfrey and his department did not pay good attention to detail and that the Sheriff believed Van Winkle to be guilty and therefore, did not pursue other possible suspects, including the victim’s then husband. James also questioned why duct tape was not processed for DNA.
Godfrey confirmed on the stand that he believed Van Winkle to be guilty. James then argued that because of Godfrey’s assumption of guilt, he had purposefully provided a mug-shot of Van Winkle shirtless to media outlets for the purpose of embarrassing him. Godfrey explained that his shirt had been taken as evidence. Other photos taken at the scene when Van Winkle still had his shirt on were marked as evidence and therefore could not be provided to media. They are also prohibited against taking “book-in” shots in orange jump suits.
After lunch, jurors heard Miranda’s neighbors who confirmed her hands were zip tied and turning blue. Andrew Pruitt said that he had just gone to bed when he heard banging at the door. He said when he opened it Miranda “bailed” through the door, crying hysterically and hid behind a chair screaming that he [Van Winkle] was trying to kill her and he had a gun.
Following his testimony, Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner rest his case which was followed by six motions from James to dismiss all charges. All motions were denied by the presiding Judge J.W. Looney.
The defense’s first witness was Dr. James Moneypenny, the same neuropsychologist who evaluated Damien Echols in 1993 and is based in Little Rock. He was recognized by the court to be considered an expert witness. Moneypenny’s opinion in the case differed from the prosecution’s neuropsychologist, Dr. Deyoub, in that he believed Deyoub underestimated the head injuries sustained prior to the night in question by Van Winkle. He confirmed that Van Winkle had a cognitive disorder, a decline in cognitive function.
Moneypenny believes that concussions sustained by Van Winkle while playing football in his youth, compounded with a head injury sustained from a car accident several years before the Sept. 25 night, and a minor head injury the day before the incident contributed to Van Winkle being in an “altered state.” He said not having his glasses or his hearing aids are considered sensory deprivation and can add to the “altered state.”
Under cross-examination by Riner, the timeline of the events and the altered state came under scrutiny. Van Winkle suffered a “minor” head injury that Moneypenny argued began this altered state on Thursday while at work. He left work and drove to Little Rock to be with a family member during an emergency surgery, attended a continuing education course in Little Rock on Friday and then drove to Miranda’s residence in Hatfield that same night.
A number of Van Winkle’s employees also testified on his behalf. Avalona Moody, a former employer of Miranda’s also took the stand and testified that Miranda is not truthful.
Charles Van Winkle, the defendant’s father, also testified in court Wednesday. He said that when he saw Van Winkle the next day following the incident that he had the same look in his eyes as he did following other head injuries in his youth. He said he went to his son’s home to retrieve his glasses and hearing aids and called the office to find out who was accusing his son. He testified that he was responsible for writing the victim’s name and address on the sheet of paper that had been entered into evidence.
Phyllis Van Winkle also testified that her son had sustained multiple falls and accidents through his lifetime. She said that her son had been wearing glasses since the third grade and that without them, he is legally blind. Both parents were questioned about whether they would be willing to lie for their son, of which they replied, “no.”
The defendant, Dr. David Van Winkle, then took the stand and testified that he had no memory of the events in question. In fact, he said he has no memory of when he hit his head in his office the preceding Thursday through the next two months that followed.
He did confirm that he treated Miranda for two extractions and two dry sockets and that it was not abnormal to make payment arrangements with patients. He was trying to help people.
He said before meeting with her probation officer, he had no knowledge of her drug offenses. Van Winkle said that Miranda told him she was afraid of her probation officer and said he stalked her.
Van Winkle said that he never leaves his home without both his glasses and hearing aids. It was also established that when he approached law enforcement at the Olmstead residence he was holding the gun in his left hand and he is right handed.
Van Winkle has been at his parents’ home for the last three months under house arrest and has not been working.
When questioned about the convenience of not being able to remember the events of the night in question, Van Winkle said that he found it to be an “inconvenience” because he cannot tell what happened to defend himself.
During cross-examination by the prosecution, Van Winkle confirmed under oath that he understands what is happening today and is able to effectively communicate with his attorney. When asked about the 671 texts exchanged between he and his patient, Van Winkle explained that she attended his church and he was only trying to help her.
Van Winkle’s was the final testimony given for the day. Additional testimony is expected from the defense on Thursday morning followed by closing arguments and then the case is expected to go before the 4-women, 8-men jury to determine Van Winkle’s guilt or innocence on the six counts he is charged with.